Tietze’s Syndrome is not costochondritis!

Tietze’s syndrome is often mistaken for a slew of other disorders, including costochondritis. The disease (a benign inflammation of the ribs) is named after Alexander Tietze and is thus called Tietze’s syndrome (not tsetse syndrome). You can read about the difference between Tietze’s syndrome and Costochondritis in this article, but essentially Tietze’s causes swelling of the costal cartilage and costochondritis doesn’t. Tietze’s has the ability to become a chronic condition lasting decades.

Tietze’s syndrome is similar to–but not the same as–costochondritis; even doctors misdiagnose Tietze’s syndrome as costochondritis–mainly because Tietze’s syndrome is a rare disorder (there are only a few hundred documented cases) that can mimic a dozen other disorders including myocardial infarction, costochondritis and slipping rib syndrome. The only way to get a firm diagnosis is to see a physician who is well versed in this disease (i.e. a rheumatologist or chest specialist).

The standard treatment for Tietze’s syndrome is rest. However, Tietze’s syndrome can become a chronic condition lasting years, and rest is not always possible. More and more treatments are becoming available for sufferers. One treatment, outlined in the Japanese Journal of Anesthesia, showed success with stellate ganglion block therapy. 5ml of mepivacaine (a local anesthetic) was injected into a Tietze’s sufferers stellate ganglion. After five treatments, pain was reduced significantly and the woman was able to function normally.

Tamakawa S, Tsujimoto J Irada H and Ogawa H. Stellate ganglion block therapy for a patient with Tietze’s syndrome. Journal of Anesthesia. Volume 11, Number 3 / September, 1997. Springer Japan.

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